What Are the Duties of an ICU Nurse?

Updated April 17, 2017

ICU nurses are specialised, trained nurse professionals working with patients who have life-threatening situations that required an extended hospital stay in an intensive care or critical care unit of the hospital. The ICU nurse must be skilled to make complex assessments, give the patient intense therapy and provide intervention care. The nurse may also perform ongoing duties for a patient in ICU unit during his stay.


Individualised assessment is made by the ICU nurse to determine the immediate needs of the critical care patient. Ongoing assessment is then established to keep tabs on the patient's condition and make any changes in treatment based on hospital policy, procedure and protocol. Assessment helps the nurse and other hospital staff determine what plan of action to take in care of the patient. Assessment also allows the ICU nurse to educate the patient and her family on what to expect in the days, weeks and months following ICU treatment.

Patient Care

Following doctor or head nurse instructions, the ICU nurse performs treatments and therapies for the patient. She gives the patient all necessary medication. If the patient lapses into cardiac arrest or another condition that requires resuscitation, the nurse follow hospital protocols and administers life-saving techniques. When a patient's condition changes rapidly, the nurse makes quick decisions to treat the patient effectively. As shift changes occur, it is the nurse's duty to inform the relief nurse of all patient care information. If the patient requires special procedures, the ICU nurse acts as an assistant to the doctor or head nurse.


Documentation of assessments and drug therapy is recorded by the ICU nurse. She also makes documentation of physiotherapy and other treatments given. The nurse must also keep all patient clinical records with doctor orders confidentially secure. The ICU nurse must be nondiscriminative and nonjudgmental when dealing with patients.

In some cases, the ICU nurse is the team leader on the nursing staff and reports directly to the head or charge nurse. In this position, she has the duty of directing and developing the skills and abilities of the staff under her. She is also responsible for giving the team assignments as directed by the head nurse. The nurse plays an active role in team conferences, participating in in-service trainings and initiating CPR and codes classes when needed.

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About the Author

Bianca Bumpres resides in Dallas, Texas with her family. She has written for online internet blogs and writes a weekly single parent column for the Dallas area. Bumpres enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Her extracurricular activities include enjoying music, reading and weekly volunteer ministry work.